For now my only goal is eventually going to sleep.
I got to Atlanta today after 11 hours of traveling a route that should have been four hours. My mind is scrambled. I'm not sure how much of this will make sense.
Saturday night, a friend called to say that I should have a hatchet to chop through the roof if my house flooded. At four or five am I woke up and found a map had been posted online detailing the flooding that would occur with a category five storm. I gathered the dogs and left, frantically trying to beat the official evacuation order. I had heard that in Ivan people were trapped on the highway for 24 hours. I made it to Hattiesburg, MS, where I stayed with a former student, who welcomed me and my three dogs even though her main concern was protecting her elderly cat. The whole way up to Hattiesburg, I noticed how many cars were packed with nothing but pets. Frequently, on my right, I noticed two cars: a man in a pickup with a Chow Chow and a minature pincher followed by a woman in a hatchback with cages of parrots and other exotic birds. I assumed they were all traveling together.
Once I got to Hattiesburg, I realized we would be hit by the eye of the storm, but it was too late to move. Early the next morning, the electric went out, and I watched as the sky flashed red in the distance. I had never seen anything like that before.
By noon the eye was above us and we had drunk all of the wine. I laid down for a nap in the living room, while my host went with her cat into her bedroom. I opened my eyes after a huge gust of wind--before my nap the wind had already been bringing down the huge limbs of of the oaks outside our windows. I looked up at the closed bedroom door and saw it bump forward, as if there had been a burst of wind behind it. My dog Brando ran to the door just as my friend opened it from the other side. She was standing, quite still, with her cat in her arms. I leaned forward to pull Brando away and saw that her room was now filled with a tree--the trunk of an oak had plunged through the ceiling, shattered her television and most of the other components on her entertainment center, and narrowly missed her cat.
We spent the rest of the storm huddled on the living room floor. My dogs didn't even know there was a cat near them until the storm subsided. Everyone was still. My friend said she was worried that the rest of the tree would come crashing down on us. I pointed to the window and showed her that there wasn't anything left of the tree. When it was safe, I walked outside to check on friends down the street. Every couple of yards there was another whole tree or power line to climb over, every other house was at least partially destroyed.
I moved to another house later that night, and spent the next days relying on friends and stangers who were cooking the contents of their freezers over fire. There was no electicity, no water, no phones, no TV, no information from the local authorities or federal goverment. FEMA arrived today, supposedly. The Red Cross spent most of Wednesday telling people they could get water at the Coca Cola plant---which proved to be completely untrue. There was no gasoline, and conflicting, maddening reports of which highways were passable and which were not. The National Guard arrived with water and ice, but no one knew where they were distributing it. Then, it turned out that they were only giving one bag of ice and one gallon of water per car. Yet they also requested that no one drive their cars. And the only locations to receive this stuff is outside of town.
At least two people were shot in disgreements about ice.
I left today without knowing if the road I was taking was clear, or if I would be able to get gas along the way. But I couldn't stand the heat any more. The refridgerators were empty, my friends leaving town. And at night, sleeping with the doors and windows open to escape the heat, I began to feel uncomfortable with the people wandering outside.
Where are the police? The National Guard? The military? Even FEMA didn't show up until today and their location was mystery.
And this wasn't even as bad as what is happening in New Orleans.
My heart is broken. I'm angry. And I'm going to bed. But there will be more later.